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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   12 July 1881

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

July 12th 1881.

My dear Wallace

I have been heartily glad to get your note & hear some news of you.—1 I will certainly order Progress & Poverty,2 for the subject is a most interesting one. But I read many years ago some books on Political Economy, & they produced a disastrous effect on of mind, viz utterly to distrust my own judgment on the subject & to doubt much everyone’s else judgment!3 So I feel pretty sure that Mr George’s book will only make my mind worse confounded than it is at present.— I, also, have just finished a book which has interested me greatly, but whether it wd. interest any one else I know not: it is the “Creed of Science” by W. Graham A.M.4 Who & what he is I know not, but he discusses many great subjects, such as the existence God—Immortality, the moral sense—the progress of Society &c.— I think some of his propositions rest on very uncertain foundations, & I could get no clear idea of his notions about God. Notwithstanding this & other blemishes, the book has interested me extremely. Perhaps I have been to some extent deluded, as he manifestly ranks too high what I have done.—5

I am delighted to hear that you spend so much time out of doors & in your garden; for with your wonderful powers of observation you will see much which no one else has seen. From Newman’s old book (I forget title) about the country near Godalming, it must be charming.—6

We have just returned home after spending 5 weeks on Ullswater: the scenery is quite charming; but I cannot walk, & everything tires me, even seeing scenery, talking with anyone or reading much.7 What I shall do with my few remaining years of life I can hardly tell. I have everything to make me happy & contented, but life has become very wearysome to me.— I heard lately from Miss Buckley in relation to Lyell’s Life, & she mentioned that you were thinking of Switzerland, which I shd. think & hope that you will enjoy much.—8

I see that you are going to write on that most difficult Political question the Land. Something ought to be done, but what is the rule.—9 I hope that you will (not) turn renegade to Natural History; but I suppose that Politiks are very tempting.—

With all good wishes for yourself & family | Believe me, my dear Wallace | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


According to his reading notebooks (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 8a and 18b), CD read John Ramsay M‘Culloch’s Principles of political economy (M‘Culloch 1825) in 1840, and Jean-Charles Léonard de Sismondi’s Political economy, and the philosophy of government (Sismondi 1847) in 1847; he described the latter as ‘poor’.
Graham 1881. See also letter to William Graham, 3 July 1881. AM: i.e. MA, master of arts, or artium magister (Latin); the title MA is on the title page of Graham 1881.
Graham wrote that the publication of Origin marked ‘the beginning of a new epoch in the history of all philosophical, theological, and moral speculation’ (Graham 1881, p. 35).
Edward Newman’s Letters of Rusticus on the natural history of Godalming ([E. Newman] 1849).
The Darwins had been away visiting the Lake District from 2 June to 5 July (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Arabella Burton Buckley’s letter has not been found, but see the letter to A. B. Buckley, 6 July [1881]. She was working on the entry for Charles Lyell in the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica (Buckley 1883). There is no record of Wallace’s going to Switzerland at this time.


Buckley, Arabella Burton. 1883. Lyell, Sir Charles (1797–1875). In EB 9th ed. Edinburgh: A. and C. Black.

George, Henry. 1881. Progress and poverty: an inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions, and of increase of want with increase of wealth; the remedy. 4th edition. London: Kegan Paul & Co.

Graham, William. 1881. The creed of science: religious, moral, and social. London: C. Kegan Paul & Co.

M‘Culloch, John Ramsay. 1825. The principles of political economy: with a sketch of the rise and progress of the science. Edinburgh: William and Charles Tait. London: Longman and Co.

[Newman, Edward.] 1849. The letters of Rusticus on the natural history of Godalming. London: John van Voorst.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Sismondi, Jean-Charles Léonard de. 1847. Political economy, and the philosophy of government. Translated from the French. London: John Chapman.


Will order Progress and poverty. Comments on ARW’s political interests and his own absorption in W. Graham’s The creed of science.

His sojourn at Ullswater: "life has become very wearisome to me".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 46434)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13243,” accessed on 2 March 2024,